Chengguan officer taking huge bribes says he was too afraid to turn them down
Source: Southern Weekend
The head of a local urban management team in the southern city of Guangzhou has been detained on allegations of accepting multimillion-yuan bribes. At court on November 15, he said that he did not dare turn down the bribes for fear of offending some people. He also blamed the system for nourishing corruption.
Wang Baolin, former head of the urban management brigade in the city’s Baiyun district, is charged with taking 4.32 million yuan ($692,000) in bribes and 500 grams of gold products during the past two years when he was overseeing demolition of unauthorized and illegal structures. Another 6.89 million yuan (US$1.1 m) in his bank account cannot be explained with his 16,000-yuan (US$2,500) monthly salary.
Wang Baolin, an urban management (chengguan) officer, is escorted in handcuffs to court.
Urban management officers, known as chengguan, are in charge of enforcing city ordinances and regulating street facilities. The wide-range of day-to-day duties chengguan are entrusted with, small and mundane as they may seem, have empowered them to use brutality against street vendors and extort protection money from violators.
At court, Wang compared the chengguan forces to a Buddhist temple where Buddhist gods are enshrined, “And I am definitely not the biggest god.” He also said he was, in a certain sense, forced to take bribes.
“People who really bribe me do not see me in person. They bribe through middlemen. These middlemen are some big potatoes that I can never afford to offend,” Wang said, “I took their money because I didn’t want to be their enemy. I didn’t want them to think I was going to deliberately make things difficult for them.”
“It (Chengguan system) is like a temple, and I am one bodhisattva/deity in the temple. I am neither the highest-ranking deity, nor the smallest goblin. They come with money just to make offerings, and I am definitely definitely not the only one they make offerings to.”
Wang Baolin went on with his all-too-honest confession, “I did not really want to do it (the job), but I can’t really quit, and no one is willing to take my seat, because whoever comes cannot possibly survive.”
“Then I was thinking, being a chengguan is like making the journey up the mountain during Qingming (Tomb-sweeping Festival): some people are doomed to fall. I am always thinking, is it the problem with the specific person, or the problem with the system.”
Screen grabs of a TV news report on Wang Baolin’s corruption case, which highlight some of Wang’s remarks at court.
From September 9 to August 2012, 27 urban management officials at all levels within Guangzhou’s urban management system were disciplined for corruption. The graft money involved in the 27 cases totaled up to 10 million Chinese yuan (US$1.5 m). That count does not include cases that may have been stifled and not reported by the news media.
Teng Biao, a lecturer at University of Politics and Law, was once quoted by Yangcheng Evening News as saying, the series of corruption cases exposed in the chengguan system has much to do with lack of supervision of its power. “But the most important of all, it is because they have too much power.”
According to Caixin magazine, urban management officials in Guangzhou have the power to impose penalties for more than 200 types of city ordinance violations.